More than 80,000 unionized Kaiser Permanente employees plan to strike in October, marking the biggest labor action in the country in over two decades.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the strike comprises a coalition of about 300 Kaiser Permanente unions, and will largely exclude doctors, registered nurses, and mental health workers, though it will include technicians, optometrists, housekeepers, receptionists, clinical laboratory scientists, and hundreds of other workers.
The unions say the healthcare company’s been outsourcing union jobs, raising patient premiums, and screwing with benefits, among other things, all while enjoying an estimated tax break of over $2.3 billion that enriches management, but not workers or patients. Union contracts expired in September 2018.
Salon spoke to some Kaiser employees, who said that though they hoped to avoid a strike (in order to do that, the coalition needs to get a National Agreement with Kaiser before October 14), the company’s focus on profits over patients and good labor practices has become untenable:
“My patients are suffering. They can’t see a doctor due to long wait times. They stopped taking in many Medicaid patients, they’ve been outsourcing our jobs, breaking down our partnership. It seems like they care more about profits than their patients,” Jeffrey Taylor, a medical assistant who has been working at Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center for 15 years, told Salon.
“When I started with Kaiser, we had good staffing. The partnership (between management and employees) was there. They came to labor management meetings prepared and we discussed our concerns. Right now, they’re making all of the decisions at up and it’s really affecting the patients and workers,” he added. “I want to make sure Kaiser comes back to the way they used to be. They lost their way. They need to come back and care about the community, care about the patients and care about their workers.”
The weeklong strike, which will affect employees in California as well as in five other states and Washington, D.C., will be the biggest in the country since 185,000 UPS workers went on strike in 1997.